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Democratic Republic of Congo – Free expression groups ask Congolese rebel leader to protect journalists

22 Oct

22 October 2012

(RSF/JED/IFEX) – 19 October 2012 – Reporters Without Borders and Journalist in Danger (JED), its partner organization in Democratic Republic of Congo, wrote today to Jean-Marie Runiga, the political coordinator of the M23 rebel movement, voicing concern about the dangers for journalists working in M23-controlled territory, especially Rutshuru, in the eastern province of Nord-Kivu, and asking him to take action to stop the threats and guarantee their safety.

Here is the text of the joint letter:

Mr. Jean-Marie Runiga M23 Political Coordinator Democratic Republic of Congo
Paris and Kinshasa, 19 October 2012
Re: Climate of danger and threats to journalists

Dear Mr. Runiga,

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) and Journalist in Danger (JED), two organizations that defend freedom of information, are writing to you as head of the armed movement called M23 to express their concern about the climate of danger for journalists working in the territories under your control, especially Rutshuru, in the eastern province of Nord-Kivu.

Our two organizations would like to draw your attention to your responsibility to guarantee the safety of journalists as they go about their work and to ensure that media freedom and the right to information are respected in the areas where you operate.

RWB and JED condemn and reject the threats that representatives of your movement have been making in recent days against local journalists and reporters working for the foreign media.

According to our information, Jean-Baptiste Kambale, the manager of Radio Communautaire Ushirika (RACOU), a community radio station based in Rutshuru, in territory controlled by M23 and located 75 kms from Goma (the capital of Nord-Kivu), was harassed following a series of reports on the French television station TV5 Monde showing mistreatment of the civilian population and other human rights violations by your troops.

He was threatened on 25 September by this territory’s administrator, Benjamin Sibomango, who accused him of facilitating the TV5 Monde crew’s work.

He also received a call from the administrator of the Rutshuru territory, who expressed the following death threat: “You led the Whites to Rutshuru for them to criticize us. You know we are rebels. For us, killing someone is not a big deal.”

The next day, it was M23 spokesman Vianney Kazarama who openly expressed his discontent with the journalist over the French TV channel’s reports, calling him an “enemy” paid by the government in Kinshasa to sully M23’s image. He was back on the offensive against the journalist on 15 October, accusing him of having trapped him and abused his good faith.

As a result of all these direct threats, Mr. Kambale is now in hiding and fears for his life and that of his family.

In view of the above, RWB and JED urge you to clearly disown the threats that have been made against journalists and to use all your prerogatives in order to guarantee Mr. Kambale’s physical safety. We further ask you to put a stop to all the acts of intimidation and harassment against RACOU’s journalists.

Our two organizations will in any case hold the M23 armed movement, which you lead, responsible for anything unfortunate that may befall this journalist and his family.

We thank you in advance for taking account of our request.

Sincerely,

Christophe Deloire
Director-General
Reporters Without Borders

Tshivis Tshivuadi
Secretary-General
Journalist in Danger

Reporters Without Borders
47, rue Vivienne
75002 Paris
France
rsf (@) rsf.org
Phone: +33 1 44 83 84 84
Fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51
@rsf_rwb

Journaliste en danger
B.P. 633 – Kinshasa 1
374, av. Col. Mondjiba
Complexe Utexafrica, Galerie St Pierre, 1er niveau, Local 18 Kinshasa/Ngaliema
République Démocratique du Congo
direction (@) jed-afcentre.org
Phone: +243 81 99 29 323
Fax: +44 20 7900 3413

via IFEX

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Jordan – Detained Jordanian activists’ health deteriorating as result of hunger strike

22 Oct

22 October 2012

Source: Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
(ANHRI/IFEX) – Cairo, 20 October 2012 – ANHRI calls on the Jordanian authorities to immediately release 19 political detainees who were arrested between 15 July and 4 October 2012.

Many of Jordan’s towns and cities came alive on 19 October as mass demonstrations were organized demanding the release of political activists belonging to a cluster of popular reform movements that are challenging the government. At the same time, some detained activists were transferred to a hospital for examination due to deteriorating health as a result of a hunger strike they upheld for more than six days to protest their continued detention. The detainees participating in the hunger strike include activists Abdullah Mahadeen and Tariq Jawabra, as well as four others.

According to a message leaked by Jawabra from his prison cell and delivered via his wife, the prison authorities transferred him to the hospital in a humiliating manner, handcuffing him and draping a black mask over his face. Once the medical examination was over, he was transferred back to his solitary cell.

The clusters of political movements in Jordan are known as “Hirakat”. Their main objective is government reform and their presence has increased remarkably since the start of last year, coinciding with the Arab Spring revolutions. Their strongest demands are to reduce the almost-absolute powers of the king regarding the constitution, to grant more power to the elected parliament with guarantees of integrity in parliamentary elections and to stop the spread of corruption in government bodies.

One such movement, the oldest and largest, is based in Tafila, a city located in southern Jordan. Eight of its activists languish in Jordanian prisons as it is the most targeted of all the movements.

Despite legal amendments announced in October 2011 that limit the jurisdiction of Jordan’s state security apparatus to the investigation of terrorism and drug crimes, Jordanian authorities are still using illegitimate techniques against activists, even when they are demonstrating peacefully. Since 15 July, Jordan has witnessed a campaign of arrests targeting activists. To justify the arrests, the state security forces have used charges against the activists that include “inciting sectarian strife”, “threatening civil peace”, “working to overthrow the regime” and “insulting the king or queen”.

“Jordan should respond to its people’s demands for the immediate release of the political prisoners and must stop the prosecution of the activists via the use of fabricated charges against them because of their involvement in peaceful demonstrations,” said ANHRI.

ANHRI stressed that there has been a severe deterioration in the Jordanian authorities’ position on freedom of opinion and freedom of expression, as demonstrated by the activists’ arrests and amendments to the Publications Law that impose unfair restrictions on press and Internet freedoms.

ANHRI calls on the international community to exert pressure on Jordan’s authorities to adhere to their freedom of expression and press freedom commitments as signatories to international treaties and conventions.

via IFEX

Grenada – Grenada abolishes criminal defamation

22 Oct

22 October 2012

Source: International Press Institute
(IPI/IFEX) – Vienna, Oct 18, 2012 – The International Press Institute (IPI) today warmly congratulated Grenada on becoming the first Caribbean state to decriminalise defamation, but urged the Grenadian government to further abolish seditious libel.

According to Grenada’s Ministry of Legal Affairs, a July reform to the country’s criminal code included the repeal of Section 252, which regulated “negligent” and “intentional” libel. The provision had provided for prison terms of up to six months and two years, respectively. Section 253, which established the circumstances under which criminal defamation could be committed, was also repealed. The changes, which came to public light this week, occurred as part of the Criminal Code (Amendment) Act of 2012, a copy of which has been obtained by IPI.

The move came amid lobbying by IPI and the Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers (ACM), an IPI strategic partner. IPI and the ACM launched a campaign early this year to abolish criminal libel laws across the Caribbean, and urged Grenada Prime Minister Tillman Thomas to remove libel offences from the Criminal Code in a letter sent last May.

Grenada Attorney General Rohan A. Phillip explained to IPI over the phone, “This government, even in opposition, felt, as a wide percentage of the world does, that having criminal libel on the books is a formal hindrance to freedom of expresion and of the press. We were of the view that civil responsibilities and forms of redress are adequate.”

Asked about the broader implications of repeal, the Attorney General commented that the abolition of criminal libel “helps to keep democracy alive and keep those who hold the reins of power in check.”

Speaking to IPI, Rawle Titus, president of the Media Workers Association of Grenada (MWAG) said he cautiously welcomed the news of repeal. “We have to commend the government and see this [repeal] as a step in the right direction,” he said. “We hope they go further and remove seditious libel.”

“We are thrilled that Grenada has decriminalised defamation, setting an example that we hope the rest of the Caribbean will follow” expressed IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie. “I want to thank Prime Minister Tillman Thomas for following through on his stated intention to abolish criminal defamation before the end of the year.”

Bethel McKenzie continued: “This is an important day for press freedom not just in Grenada but also for the greater Caribbean. Criminal defamation laws are archaic, redundant, and a threat to democracy and the free exercise of journalism so long as they remain on the books. We call upon all other Caribbean states to follow Grenada’s lead and consign these laws to the dustbin of history.”

IPI’s Executive Director urged Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Barbados in particular to push through pending bills that would decriminalise defamation before the end of 2012. She also renewed IPI’s call for Trinidad and Tobago to address its libel laws.

Wesley Gibbings, ACM president, added, “This is a singularly important moment in recent Caribbean history for those of us who yearn for conditions more conducive to unfettered free expression. The challenge is now extended to other members of the Caribbean Community family who say they wish to move in this direction, but have yet to find the political will or confidence.”

The decriminalisation of libel in Grenada is particularly significant, given that the country was one of the few in the Caribbean to have applied the law in recent years. In 1999, George Worme, then editor of Grenada Today, was arrested and charged with criminal libel after writing an editorial that accused then-Prime Minister Keith Mitchell of bribery.

The case ultimately reached the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, which serves as the final court of appeal for much of the English-speaking Caribbean. In George Worme and Grenada Today v. Commissioner of Police of Grenada (2004), the Council ruled that Section 252 amounted to a reasonable restriction on the freedom of expression guarantees provided in the Grenadian Constitution.

Despite the repeal of Sections 252 and 253, seditious libel, regulated under Section 327, remains a criminal offence in Grenada and can result in up to two years in prison. Section 328, which makes insulting the Queen a misdemeanor, also remains on the books.

Bethel McKenzie added: “Despite this unquestionable victory for media freedom, the Grenadian government should take the last step and remove seditious libel from the Criminal Code.”

Titus reminded IPI that seditious libel charges have also been brought recently in Grenada, most notably against journalist Stanley Charles in 1998.

In June, IPI in partnership with the ACM conducted a two-week advocacy mission to Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago as part of IPI’s campaign to abolish criminal libel and insult laws in the Caribbean. IPI released a final mission report this week.

At IPI’s 2012 World Congress in Trinidad and Tobago, IPI members approved the “Declaration of Port of Spain,” which calls on Caribbean governments to repeal criminal defamation legislation in support of strong, free, and independent media. Also at the congress, Trinidad & Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar pledged to bring the island nation’s criminal defamation laws in line with international standards.

via IFEX

Honduras – Imprisoned man continues to threaten Honduran journalist

22 Oct

22 October 2012

Source: Comité por la Libre Expresión – C-Libre
(C-Libre/IFEX) – 17 October 2012 – From his cell in a jail in Puerto Cortes, Cortes department, Joaquin Molina Andrade has continued to send death threats to journalist Selvin Martínez and his family. Molina previously tried to kill Martínez on 11 June 2012.

“We’re going to give it to you where it hurts the most; your children, your mother, your wife,” read the threats.

“I feel tremendous fear for my family, I can’t get away from this distressing situation, not even for a second,” Martínez told C-Libre.

According to the journalist, who works for the JBN television station, the person behind the threats is Molina, who is currently awaiting sentencing on charges of attempted murder and bearing illegal arms. Martínez said Molina even called him personally to threaten him..

“As far as I understood from the public prosecutor, they are in charge of sentencing Joaquín Molina, and I was told they will be asking for 18 to 20 years in prison, but I’m not sure that’s going to help me. That’s why I’m letting the public know that if anything happens to me or my family, this man is responsible,” said Martínez.

The journalist has been the target of two shootings this year, was involved in a car chase and his wife was the victim of an attempted kidnapping. Because Martínez is clearly in danger, the Human Rights Unit of the Public Safety Secretariat has granted him security measures.

via IFEX

Bahrain – Bahraini justice minister threatens to use “coercive force” against opposition clerics

22 Oct

22 October 2012

Source: Bahrain Center for Human Rights
(BCHR/IFEX) – 17 Oct 2012 – The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is deeply concerned over the authorities’ persistent imposition of further restrictions on freedom of expression, and their misuse of judicial procedures as a political tool to silence and terrorize opponents who exercise their free speech rights in religious sermons and seminars, and on social networks and the Internet.

This concern arose after Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa made statements in which he threatened to use coercive force to stop clerics whose speeches are not consistent with the authorities’ views. He also declared a new approach to enact legislation regarding the use of social networks and modern mobile technologies.

In a meeting with journalists on 8 October 2012, Al-Khalifa said, in a warning tone, “With the crisis unfolding, we started to find that verbal offences took place between the sects, and the religious podium lost its respect. Four months ago we started to follow the cleric’s Friday sermons more closely, and a committee was formed to gather them. We advised some clerics, gave warnings to others and issued a suspension order to one. Soon, we will start using coercive force to suspend anyone who does not abide by those decisions.”

The minister’s statements were punctuated with hints regarding the targeting of certain opposition and religious figures that have criticized the government’s performance and supported the freedom and democracy movement. The minister selectively quoted some of the terms used in their speeches. His threats ran parallel to the terrorism and defamation campaigns these individuals have been subjected to by the local, pro-government newspaper.

The statements and threats came as part of a series of continuous actions against clerics who have expressed their opinions. The minister issued a decision on 12 August to suspend cleric Sayed Kamel Al-Hashimi, who is considered an opponent of the government, in the Barbar area’s Ali bin Hammad Mosque, for criticizing the judiciary and describing it as unfair and politicized. The minister considered this “an insult to the Judicial Authority and an act of disrespect towards the judiciary.”

While the authorities target clerics who express opinions that do not align with their official viewpoint, they also overlook the obvious transgressions of loyal, pro-government figures. For months, some of these individuals have been attacking significant sectors of Bahraini society by publicly cursing and insulting them, accusing them of treason and stirring people against them, such as at this Friday sermon given by Sheikh Jassim Al-Saeedi.

The Ministry of Justice has not taken any actual measures against Al-Saeedi despite the inclusion of slander, contempt and sectarian incitement in his speeches. In March, after a sermon in which he described the Shiite sect as “bastards”, the Ministry’s only reaction was to issue a news release claiming a demand was made to open an investigation into the incident, while in reality no measures were taken to follow-up on that statement.

Read the full report

via IFEX

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